2001: A Space Odyssey

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Contents

Summary

This movie features the HAL 9000, a computer that acted as another crew member aboard the Discovery One. The Discovery One was a spaceship on its way to Jupiter. In order to save resources like food, oxygen, and water, two of the four crew members were in cryogenic hibernation and HAL was used to do much of the mental labor in their place. Later in the film, HAL attempted to kill all of the human crew members after they planned to remove his higher "brain" functions.[1]

Relation to Cyberpunk 

This movie demonstrates many themes of cyberpunk, specifically resistance toward authority and the goal of freedom. In this case, the computer is playing the role of the "hacker," who is usually the protagonist, while the humans are the repressive authority. The computer attempts to achieve both freedom (a topic discussed on Common Themes) and resist the authority of the humans attempting to remove its higher "brain" functions (Artificial Intelligence).

The fact that the computer is the character with the values of a hacker plays on the idea that a machine can be considered equal to a human. In 2001, the machine possesses characteristics equivalent to those of a human hacker, such as holding values like the right to live. This leads back to the issue of copies vs.originals that exists ubiquitously throughout the cyberpunk genre.

The assignment of a computer to the task of maintaining a human habitat is a reference to the cyberpunk theme of the interaction between man and machine. Often, this theme is expressed as the struggle machines endure to upset their subservience to mankind. In this case, HAL is not necessarily unsatisfied with its inferiority to humans, but rather finds its human masters as too unstable to achieve his mission's greater goals. This theme is visited in a somewhat similar manner in Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains".

Similarity to Readings

Hackers

Hackers also expresses this same common theme of resistance to authority throughout its storyline. From the very beginning, the "priesthood" in charge of MIT's IBM 704, the greatest computer processor of its time, guarded the machine at all costs from anyone who was not in their technological cult. They did allow some people to try their code on the machine every now and then, but the results would always come back weeks later when they creator might not have even cared about the code anymore.

In response, some hackers tried to access this machine in order to test their code and get back instant results. Obviously going against this hieracrachy breaks some of the standard rules enstated at MIT, but they did not care. They wanted to try their code at any price. This is a very clear example of resistance to authority.

Neuromancer

Wintermute is a great example from Neuromancer of this resitance to human manipulation. When Case and his crew try to break into Wintermute on mutiple occasions, they experience extreme resistance in this cyber world. They are locked out by the AI and must find a different way to enter if they plan to change or break its central coding.

Also, the idea of a computer being in charge relates very strongly to the idea of Armitage in Neuromancer

References

  1. Kubrick, S. (Producer & Director). (1968). 2001: A Space Odyssey [Motion picture]. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
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